Before teachers can influence generations of students and shape the future, they have to shape themselves.

WORLDWIDE, international organisations, universities and professional organisations organise conferences on themes such as; “The Future of Schools and Universities” or “The Future of Learning”.

This week in Bangkok, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and the Asia Pacific Programme of Educational Innovation for Development organised its 17th International Conference on the theme: “Teachers for the Future We Want”.

All these brainstorming, rigorous analysis, international agenda and national mission come in the wake of the ending of the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All initiatives next year, and the ideation and new global initiatives being formulated.

Unesco’s director (Bangkok), Gwang Jo-Kim states: “This year on Oct 5 is the 20th anniversary of World Teachers Day, and its core message is: an education system is only as good as its teachers who take centre stage in shaping the minds and attitudes of the coming generations to deal with new global challenges and opportunities.

“When governments and communities invest in teachers, they are essentially investing in the future.”

Before teachers can influence generations of students and shape the future, they have to shape themselves.

One strategic initiative in elevating the profession and creating changes is for teachers to rediscover their noble ancestry and realise truly that they are really scholars, intellectuals, leaders of communities, knowledge entrepreneurs and change masters.

The concept of scholar teacher is regaining relevance among educators worldwide especially as society becomes more advanced and the profession is respected as a “true profession” with the intangible reality of knowledge power, civilisational mission, self-respect, elegant thinking processes, social skills and relationships, virtues, intellectual character, relevant competencies and self-confidence.

The concept of scholar teacher has many implications. One of its major implications would be that teachers will no more be at the periphery of society and development.

The scholar teacher will be actively engaged in the defining of reality and development. The scholar teacher will no longer allow others to hijack the profession and define the contents, standards, meaning and spirit of the profession and dictate what teachers should do.

The scholar teacher will be the shapers of society and the future that they anticipate and the future the society they lead want.

The roots of the notion of scholar teacher are also from the notion of scholar civil servant since China’s Sui Dynasty (581-617) when civil servants passed a series of examinations based on the mastery of Confucian books.

The scholar civil servants were also masters of poetry, calligraphy, painting and bold critics of society and of those who abused power. The roots of the notion of the scholar teacher are embedded in the examples of Socrates and Ibn Khaldun considered as the founding fathers of Liberal Arts.

It will be scholar teachers who define responsible membership of communities, participative national citizenry and contributions to global citizenship. Scholar teachers understand the meaning of the possibility of creating an enlightened citizenry as they understand the nature of developing students’ potentialities.

Also in comprehensive, realistic and holistic terms they can understand how the development of the potentialities, talents and other competencies of students translate to the making of a knowledge society, an enlightened, engaged and responsible citizenry.

The scholar teacher is humble and respectful of the clarity and power of the mind of ancient scholars and their robust and significant contributions and lofty ideals.

In keeping with developments in the field, the programme standards in education will unleash debates regarding the deeper and more profound philosophy of education, the philosophy of teacher education and of the contents and processes of learning considered worthwhile for learners today who will live in an unknown tomorrow with all kinds of uncertainties.

In an important work on “Scholarship Reconsidered,” Ernest Boyer argued that the “teacher scholar” will engage in discovery, integration of all knowledge, the application of knowledge to real situation and the systematic and transparent and public examination of his/her teaching-learning.

The scholar teachers for the future will bring about strategic changes to the profession and the way it contributes, and, to the development of society. It will mean changes in the mindset and self-definitions of teachers and paradigm shifts of teacher education.

In its realistic idealism, it will create a bold new knowledge society quietly, unobtrusively, enabling its members to be in fulfilment of higher ideals of existence. The growth of scholar teachers as lifelong, life wide and perennial learners, will lead to the eventual closing of the gaps of knowledge, and thinking among teachers at all levels, and, among the citizenry.